Billions of dollars in unused airline flight credits remain outstanding and some carriers have made it much more difficult than others to redeem them. Now a pair of United States Senators has demanded that airlines issue cash refunds for flight credits or at least eliminate expiration dates. They also urge airlines not to let frequent flier miles expire and insist that flight credits should be redeemable on partner airlines.
Senators Want Cash Refunds, No Expiration Date For Airline Flight Credits
In a letter to airline executives, Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) note that in exchange for the billions of dollars in federal payroll support and other forms of aid that airlines received during the pandemic, they must aid customers in need.
Although many air travelers have had to cancel flights due to no fault of their own, many airlines have denied them the cash refunds they deserve, and are instead issuing temporary flight credits that are now beginning to expire despite the ongoing health emergency. Accordingly, we write to urge your airline to make all flight credits—including those already issued and those that have expired during the pandemic—valid indefinitely by default.
The Senators notes that “Americans need cash in their pockets to pay for food, housing, and prescriptions during this emergency” and that holding them ransom to flights they may no longer be in a position or have a desire to take has caused tremendous financial damage.
Whoever drafted this letter did their homework, as it accurately breaks down the lack of any sort of uniformity between carriers and how a credit at one carrier is so differently applied than at another.
Because travelers are struggling to navigate these differing policies, they are now at risk of losing the billions of dollars they were effectively forced to loan to the airline industry interest-free.
Airline chiefs are put on the spot, with a series of questions at the end of the letter due back on May 28th. Those include:
- Will your airline commit to providing a cash refund for all tickets that are canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of whether the airline or traveler cancels the flight? If not, why not?
- What types of flight credits does your airline offer and what are the rules and restrictions governing each type of credit?
- For each type of credit, what is the total value your airline has issued during the coronavirus pandemic (beginning with credits issued any time on or after March 1, 2020)?
- Will your airline commit to making all flight credits—including those that have already been issued and those that have expired during the pandemic—valid indefinitely by default? If not, why not, and what is your policy?
- Will your airline commit to making all frequent flier miles that were unable to be redeemed during the pandemic valid indefinitely by default? If not, why not, and what is your policy?
- Will your airline commit to making sure your flight credit policy is easy to understand and to making sure flight credits are easy to redeem?
- Will your airline’s customers always be able to utilize the full value of their pandemic- related flight credits, no matter their replacement travel plans or other circumstances? If not, why not?
- Will your airline’s customers be able to apply their flight credits to flights operated by your airline and partner airlines? If not, will customers whose original flight was operated by a partner airline be able to use their flight credits on a flight operated by a partner airline? Please explain your answers in detail.
These are all excellent questions and as the recipient of billions of dollars in taxpayer aid, it is only reasonable that elected leaders try to push airlines to protect those tax payers.
Beyond public pressure or a new law, these Senators cannot compel airlines to offer cash refunds for flight vouchers or annul expiration dates and reinstate expired credits. Nevertheless, this is an important sign in at least attempting to hold airlines accountable for the billions of dollars they are holding from consumers in the USA and around the world.